Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Simply Tintin

Last week, I revisited my childhood – I went to watch The Adventures of Tintin. Aajkal toh combo-packs ka zamana hai...this too was a combo-pack of 3 Tintin stories in one – The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s treasure.

Sitting chomping popcorn and gobbling ice cream in the theatre, I was transported back to my childhood – when I would sit for hours with a Tintin comic in one hand, and a large supply of namkeen, chocolates and dry fruits near the other. My Ma would hover around in the background, grumbling continuously about what miracles I could have done if only I had been this attentive to studies, but I would be lost to the world, transported into the imaginary realm where I was with Tintin every step of the way in his adventures.

I would sit giggling at the goof-ups of the dumb detective duo Thomson and Thompson, smile at the antics of the hard-of-hearing Prof Calculus, and chuckle at the smart-alecky comments made by Snowy at crucial junctures. But my favourite was – you’re right, the adorable Captain Haddock, with his colourful language… ‘Billions  of blue blistering barnacles’ and ‘Ten thousand thundering typhoons’ …not to mention ‘Ectoplasm’, ‘Moth-eaten marmot’, and even ‘Logarithm’!!! :D

If only real-life curse words were so beautifully imaginative, and yet harmless!

As a child, I would have totally loved to possess the entire collection of Tintin comics, but there was only one hitch – they were expensive. I remember buying my first Tintin comic for Rs. 19 – a princely sum in the mid-seventies. And I still have a soft corner for the relative who bought me ‘Prisoners of the Sun’ which I desperately wanted, after the price had gone up to Rs. 27. But it was well worth its cost – I would read each comic a hundred times over, laughing over and over again at the same panel!

People who shared this passion automatically became dear friends. And friends who shared this passion became that much dearer! Unlike other books, nobody would easily lend a Tintin comic to even their dearest friend, though – all chances were that it would never come back.

I was addicted to Tintin till my late twenties. And while watching the movie, all the nostalgia came swooshing down on me. Immediately after the movie, I started showing withdrawal symptoms, and re-read the only one still in our possession – Destination Moon. Now I believe I am re-addicted and am contemplating buying some of them (if not the whole lot) again!

As for the movie - there were times when I wished the makers had preserved the original bits from the stories. And I found the seemingly mindless action scenes at the climax especially irritating – with machines whirring about without making any sense to me, at least. But there were lots of good things too – the 3 stories were woven together pretty seamlessly, and the all the characters looked pretty realistic in the 3-D animation. So realistic, that it was easy to forget that it was an animation film and the people walking about were not real actors!

But the thing I missed the most from the comics were the expressions that Georges Remi managed to put on the faces of his characters – no doubt he was exceptionally talented in that. The expressions on the faces of even the most insignificant of characters are done to the smallest detail. To see what I mean, take a dekko below at the 'not amused' look on the face of the disdainful llama when the Captain makes friendly overtures to it in Prisoners of the Sun! And then, the Captain keeps getting harassed by llamas repeatedly throughout the story, and then, finally, at the end, gets his revenge by spraying water on the face of a llama. The expression on the face of that hapless llama is totally priceless! :) (I could not find that image on the net, and I don't have the comic, but that look is just stuck to my memory!!) Absolutely CLASSIC! And that kind of million-dollar-expressions were missing in the movie!
The disdainful and 'not amused' expression on the face of the llama as the Captain tries to make friendly overtures to it...

I also happened to watch RaOne a few weeks ago. I noticed there were definitely more kids in the auditorium for that movie than for Tintin. I can imagine how today's kids, exposed to mindless violence and blood and gore through TV, films and even animation films, must be identifying so much more with RaOne with its 'ultimate villain' than with Tintin, embodying 'ultimate goodness'.

Sad. I for one definitely believe that today's kids need much higher doses of Tintin and the like, and lower doses of films showing inane violence... though I doubt many youngsters will agree with me...  


  1. I, for one, own the entire collection of Tin Tin, which I bought in my thirties! I am still transported back to my teens whenever I pick one of those. I will try to scan that strip you mentioned here! However, the comics have gone smaller and not as much fun as the bigger versions. And no, don't ever ask me lend you those! I am NOT likely to do that!

    BTW, I also own quite a lot of Asterix Albums! SO THERE!!!

  2. Thanks for letting that out - I am going to rob your house some day....

  3. Nice one..... Though I am yet to see the movie, I could instantly connect with your thoughts. I was an equally (if not more) avid Tintin reader and fan. There was a small window bookshop near my house in Kolkata who used to rent out Tintin comics for 50 paise (The charges for Tinkle/ Amar Chitra Katha was 25 paise). However, I did not have any magnanimous uncle who could buy me a Tintin comic... I am yet to own a copy myself :-(
    thanks for upping the nostalgia...

  4. Instantly remembering two expressions frozen in my mind
    one from Tintin in Tibet - The coolie shouting at Captain - "KYA PHIR WAHI! and the second of course from the Rastapopulas comic where On seeing the baboon with similar nose he wonders who it reminds him off till he sees rastapopulus again - actually am in fits again as I am recollecting much more similalrly. Good to have been reminded.
    Secret - I still pick the couple of Tintins and ASterix's and read now and then at home when alone, and laugh out to myself.
    Let us do this more often and perhaps with Ananya - may be She will find it equally funny.
    btw - while on humour, I always foudn the series of exchanges of telegrams between Aund Dahlia (or was it Agatha? ) and Bertie
    WHatever else you sure have a way of picking up the right things to bring back to life - ours, great going, and give us more